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Whole Foods last week circulated a memo to suppliers in which it elaborated on efforts to make changes in its Global Grocery team as it looks to streamline its processes.

According to the memo, "one of our biggest opportunities for improvement is timely communication, specifically around new item reviews.," and so the company has established "a new submission process" that it says is "pretty simple and doesn’t require much from you. All we need you to do is submit your new item forms, and respective new item slides, to the following alias:

"So, instead of sending a new item email to one of our grocery buyers, you simply send it to the alias.

"Since we will be onboarding new buyers and splitting up the category responsibilities (update pending), this process will streamline the collection of review documents.

"Our purchasing team will be making product decisions on a weekly basis and sending you status updates regarding your submission. This should provide you with much improved lead time to plan your market strategy according to your product’s status.

"The status update email you’ll receive will be auto-generated from a database.
These emails will not be responded to, so please do not reply to these updates. If you have a question regarding the product decision you received, please reach out to the appropriate buyer/category manager.

"We will have an updated list of purchasing team members and their respective categories out soon."
KC's View:
To the unschooled - and I would include myself in this category - this might seem like a logical streamlining, but one supplier told MNB that these moves actually exacerbate what it views as an ongoing "lack of focus on their team regarding new items, the life blood of the industry." This streamlining, the supplier said will only isolate their category managers more. 'Just send us your forms and slides and we will decide for you.' Where is the one-on-one, sharing of consumer insights, identifying needs within the retailer, and old fashioned sampling new flavors?

That is, I think, an interesting perspective. One has to wonder if the decisions that Whole Foods lately has been making - moving to more centralized buying, opening a new chain ("365") that will be cheaper - are responses to greater competition that will make it more effective and consumer-responsive, or simply more efficient ... which won;t necessarily improve its market position.

It is the old effective vs. efficient argument, in which too many companies mistakenly decide that they can save their way to prosperity.